My grandfather has always been what I would call an all-around techie. He has built himself three houses in his lifetime, with hard work he climbed the ladder to become head of department (100+ employees) in a company working in the metal industry and he still owns the biggest private workshop I’ve ever seen. He knows how to build big machinery and repair everyday electronics. Heck, he didn’t want to buy handrails for his house, so he built a 5meter/5ton “gadget” to cold twist 5cm thick steel. That’s the man my grandfather is – a real man’s man.
He will be 76 in a few months, but that doesn’t slow him down. He owns a big screen Plasma and always carries his mobile phone. The only “weak spot” considering regular use of technology is computers. It has been over ten years now since he retired. Back in the day his company just started using computers for accounting. But well, what do you have secretaries for?(;
Anyway, the first computer he bought was a brand new Pentium II. Back in the day Win98 was considered state of the art and Linux was not made for n00bs. Understandingly, he never grew into it. Neither did I. But while I switched to Linux, he didn’t find any good use for his computer.
When I bought my first Apple Macbook in 2007, I installed his second machine (coincidentally my previous PC). It was an IBM dual PIII workstation/monster with lots of RAM. Before it changed owners, I operated it with 6 graphics cards and 6 HDDs. I also got my grandfather a modem, a printer and a fax. The workstation ran Ubuntu 2006/04 which was a decent improvement on Win98.
Even though Ubuntu already had a pretty good user interface, usage was still clunky. He had to go to the “computer room”, switch off the phone, switch on the modem, boot the PC, connect to the internet. He had to use peripherals he was absolutely not used to. I didn’t think it was this hard to use a mouse, but when you’re 70 and never had to use one, this device really can be a deal killer. Honestly, who invented the single left click, the double click and the right click methodology? When he kept asking me over and over when to do what, I realized how bad a design decision this really was.
Skip a few years ahead. We’re in June 2010 now. Apple reveals the iPad.
I decided pretty fast I had to get this device for my grandfather. I was sure he would love to use a computer for mail, news, his favorite croatian radio program (which is normally broadcasted via medium wave – in Germany there’s only reception at night), games and reading about cooking and gardening. There was just no way he would do it with a standard PC in the back of his house. But he would do it on his couch if what he wanted was only one click away. Besides, he always fancied my iPhone as a pretty cool device.
So I went to my local Apple Store and got on the priority list. A couple of weeks later I got mail saying I had 24h time to fetch it from the store. And so I did. I wanted him to have an Google account for mail and calendar, various bookmarks, apps and games preinstalled. Of course I bought the 3G version, so I got my hands on a data plan. The first three days I configured and tested the iPad in such a way that everything would just work out of the box.
Well, what can I say. The decision to get him an iPad has been an overwhelming success! He loves the device, tells me it’s so much easier to use and he keeps asking perfectly good questions on stuff I have not yet taught him. And when he get’s shown what to do, he will remember it and not ask the same question again.
Being the interested and always curious techie he is, he already wrote me mail, read some stuff online and played many winning sessions in Mahjong. I’m quite interested as to where this new love goes. We already upgraded and bought the iPad case – we also wanted the camera connection kit to match his Sony Cybershot, but it is out of stock in Zürich, Stuttgart and even online!
I’m happy he finally made the transition to being part-time online. And I guess he is, too.
Just my 2c on how useful the iPad can be.